One of my childhood dreams–the ultimate dream that trumped all other dreams–was to be a naval aviator; a fighter pilot. My dream predated Tom Cruise and Top Gun. (I still maintain that the first 4 minutes of Top Gun may be the best cinematic creation ever. How many of you that grew up in the 80s can honestly watch fighter jets being launched off an aircraft carrier without thinking of the opening notes of Highway to the Danger Zone? Duh da da duh da duh da duh da da da...But I digress.) My dream even predated The Right Stuff. Even though both of those movies came out when I was a teenager and had realized that the dream was just a dream, they both stoked the fire.
My plan was to be a naval aviator then a famous test pilot and finally an astronaut. The idea of the excitement of flying both fighter jets and space ships still causes something to stir within. Of course this comes from the guy that needs to take Dramamine when flying. But I just know that piloting a fighter jet would be very different than riding in a passenger jet...
This dream is why I still stop and read articles like the one I found this morning. Brian Doherty of reason.com wrote an article about the current push for consumer space travel.
"I’m at the Mojave Spaceport—the private general aviation airfield where SpaceShipOne, the first private vehicle to zip twice between space and back, first took off in 2004. That’s the same year that Mojave became certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the nation’s first private 'spaceport,' certified to send vehicles and people out of this world. Seven years later, more than a handful of commercial space companies operate out of this sprawling complex of runways, hangars, and airplane bits, and it’s no longer the only private spaceport in America."
Doherty is visiting a company called XCOR. According to XCOR's website:
"XCOR is focused on the research, development and production of safe, reliable, reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), rocket engines and rocket propulsion systems...These successes have launched XCOR to the forefront as a leader in the commercial space transportation industry and our principals are recognized experts in the field."
Why wouldn't someone want to visit a company that was successfully creating vehicles that could send civilians into space. It only revives the dream of going to space that some of us have had since childhood. Doherty states:
"All this activity is to give people experiences that were impossible less than a lifetime ago, and are still absurdly...rare. As Massee says, space travel is still stuck in the days right after the Wright Brothers. But this spaceport is already bustling—I drove past a handful of other space-oriented companies such as Scaled Composites and Masten Space Systems on the way into XCOR’s humble, security-gates-free World War II-era wooden hangar."
While I may never get the chance to be a naval aviator or an actual NASA astronaut the dream of space adventure is still alive. Even though it still may be absurdly rare and outside of my grasp:
"Still, (XCOR President Jeff) Greason opens a window into his dreamier side. 'Imagine going back to the age of sail, and tell[ing] them we now have…two other planets we can go to,' he says. 'It takes days of sailing to get to one of them; the other takes many months of sailing to get to—do you think that might be worth something? They would look at you as if you lost your mind. They are just there waiting for us, and don’t even have hostile natives!'"